New Jersey's largest city will get a three-year, $2.1 million federal grant aimed at community-based crime prevention, officials said Monday during a press briefing in Newark.
Flanked by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio and other city officials, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said the cash will be used to focus on quashing crime in the city's most violent "hot spots" — the Central and South wards.
Booker said a 7-square-mile radius within those two neighborhoods accounts for roughly 80 percent of the city's shootings.
"This federal funding will put community police officers on the beat in high crime neighborhoods, provide new opportunities for at-risk youth and reduce crime in Newark," said Lautenberg. The senator is a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, which awards the grant.
With the money, the city will hire four "beat" police officers, who will focus on community engagement within the hot spots. Officials also will expand social services to all city residents.
Also, the Newark Police Department and the city's Office of Prisoner Re-entry will work together, using the federal dollars to provide community outreach and case-management services to high-risk individuals, such as gang members and ex-convicts, according to Booker.
"We can't arrest our way out of this problem," the mayor said. "The way to prevent crime is to empower people to ensure crime doesn't happen in the first place."
Booker pointed to existing outreach services in the city, such as Newark Comprehensive Center for Fathers' Fathers Now, as a success story. He said that program has seen a less than 3 percent recidivism rate among graduates.
Newark has an estimated 23 street gangs with more than 2,600 members, according to a 2010 study released by the New Jersey State Police.
DeMaio said the money will help continue community policing and help city residents shy away from crime. "It's going to give people an opportunity to put their lives in a positive direction and get the services they need to do so," he said.
The police director said the grant money also will help supplement "Ceasefire," an anti-gang program scheduled to start in the city at the end of September.
Newark's South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka said he'd like to see community-based social service agencies, such as International Youth Organization, get some of the cash. He said those organizations play an active role in keeping criminals off the streets.
"(City officials) keep talking about re-entry into crime, but that's only one part. That's dealing with treatment," said Baraka. "But you have to deal with prevention, intervention and treatment."